Tuesday, June 21st 2016
Today did not go as planned and as a result I took very few photos. That is not to say that the day was a total wash-out: we did get to where we wanted to go and in the evening enjoyed a restaurant meal in good company.
The plan was to go to Salisbury, spend some time there, and then return in time to meet our friend in the evening. Salisbury is in the county of Wiltshire and is a city with a cathedral. The name (pronounced ‘SAWLS-bree’) has very ancient origins, as indicated in the following. (I have italicized the passage so that you can skip it if not interested.)
The settlement dates from at least Neolithic times and became a fortified Celtic town that we remember as Old Sarum. The Celtic name ended in a suffix (possibly ‘-dunon’) meaning ‘fort’ and was Latinized under the Romans as Sorviodunum. The Anglo-Saxons replaced the putative -dunon with their equivalent, –burh and called the town Searoburh and later, Searobyrig.
The Normans, who always had trouble with English place names, wrote it down as Sarisberie or Seresberie. In the medieval period, this became Salisberie (‘l’ and ‘r’ are often interchanged as a language evolves) and the name eventually found a stable modern form in Salisbury but also with a simplification of the pronunciation.
We decided to travel to Salisbury by bus, as there is a regular scheduled service connecting it with Dorchester. The journey takes between two-and-a-half and three hours. Or should do.
We made our way to the upper deck and enjoyed a good view of the countryside as it rolled past the windows. Soon we were out of town in open country where official stops were few and far apart. It was now that the bus chose to suffer a fault. I have no idea what the fault was but it was serious enough for the driver to halt the bus and radio back to base for instructions.
The instructions were that the bus must not continue and that a relief vehicle would be sent to take us passengers onward to our various destinations. We settled down to wait, the driver appearing from time to time to keep us informed of the situation. This report generally resolved itself as the phrase ‘The relief bus will soon be here’.
‘Soon’ is one of those words that mean different things to different people in different situations. It is my experience that there are short soons and long soons. This particular soon turned out to be a long one. A very long one. We sat and watched the road (in both directions) and grew hopeful every time we saw a bus approaching but again and again our hopes were dashed.
When at last the relief arrived, we all filed obediently and without complaint or recrimination out of the broken bus into the – we hoped – unbroken bus. The driver drove – to coin a phrase – like the clappers. We were sitting in front seats on the upper deck and I was impressed by the speeds this old crate managed to reach. I was also a little nervous at times, as when, for example, the bus sped round a blind bend, where, had there been a halted or slow moving vehicle, a collision would have been inevitable.
The bus followed the scheduled route, dropping people off here and there, and eventually arrived in Salisbury, happily without any blind-bend collisions.
The first thing we did was to check the times of buses back to Dorchester. In London, despite our frequent complaints, we enjoy good and frequent bus, tube, train and tram services running to a 24-hour timetable. Outside London, things may be different and in some places, buses and even trains, often shut down completely in the evening. Traveller and tourist, beware!
We chose the last but one service returning to Dorchester and this left us precious little time to visit the town, especially as we were famished and needed to have lunch.
We looked here and there for a good cafe or restaurant and found ourselves in Guildhall Square where there is a Pizza Express. The Guildhall is the headquarters of the Salisbury City Council (there is also a Wiltshire Council with its seat in Trowbridge, the county town). It was built in 1788-95 and one of the more noticeable features is what is called a hexastyle Doric portico, that is, a portico with six columns. (We didn’t have time to go any closer.) It is a Grade II* listed building.
In Minster Street, a passageway between shops gave us this attenuated view of a church. Salisbury has a cathedral but this is not it. This is the Church of St Thomas and St Edmund. (Originally, it was dedicated solely to St Thomas who acquired his room mate in 1973 when the parishes of St Thomas and St Edmund were merged.) It was probably founded in the 13th century but was rebuilt and extended in the 15th. It would have been worth a look, if we had had time and is Grade I listed.
Salisbury has an open-air market. The charter for this was given in 1227 but the market had already been in existence for some years. Walking round it, we found a wide range of goods on sale and a lively atmosphere with plenty of customers.
Old markets often have a structure called the Market Cross and what we see above is definitely a market cross. However, it is actually called Poultry Cross and was once a member of a set of four, the others being the Cheese Cross, the Linen Cross and the Barnwell or Bernewell Cross (possibly named after a family called de Bernewell), the latter marking the cattle market. The Poultry Cross was built in the 14th century and repaired or restored in the 19th. It is Grade I listed.
After this all too short visit to Salisbury, we made for the bus stop, getting there in good time. We did this in deference to the First Law of Bus Travel. This law states that 1. if you are early for the bus, then the bus will be late and you will have to wait long enough to begin to suspect it has been cancelled; 2. If you are exactly on time for the bus, the bus will have come (and gone) early, so you’ve missed it; 3. If you are late for the bus, see 2.
I mentioned that we chose the last but one bus. We do this because when travelling out of town, you should always leave yourself a fall-back. If you plan to travel by the last bus or train, this may be cancelled and often is, in which case (and we know this from experience) you either have to spend the night where you are or undertake a very expensive taxi ride…
We returned to Dorchester and celebrated our safe arrival without any blind-bend collisions by resting and making tea in our hotel room. We then sallied forth to meet our friend, whereupon there arose the question of where we should go to dine. Happily there was a branch of Wagamama nearby who have a choice of vegetarian dishes on the menu.
After dinner and before going our separate ways, we went for a walk. This took us to an ancient historic site called Maumbury Rings.
Maumbury Rings is very old though, as the guide books tell us, it shows three stages of development. The first stage occurred in the Neolithic Period when it was constructed by heaping up earth to construct a high bank with an inner ditch to enclose a circular area. It is not known for certain whether it was defensive, i.e. a fort, or a place of ritual. The latter interpretation is supported by the existence around the banks of about 45 shafts or holes that had been dug and then deliberately filled with red deer skull fragments (and possibly fragments of a human skull) together with figures carved in chalk.
In the second phase, the Romans made use of the Rings to create an amphitheatre by digging out the centre and adding the spoil to the banks. Finally, the Rings were modified in 1642-3 by Parliamentary Forces in the Civil War to create an artillery emplacement to defend the southern flank of the town against advancing Royal Forces.
We walked to the station to put our friend on the train back to Weymouth, on the way passing Brewery Square. This was once the centre of operations of the Eldridge Pope Brewery. Founded by the Eldridges in 1833, the brewery closed in 2003 and the area has now been redeveloped as a centre of entertainment and events, with shops, restaurants and apartments.
As a memorial to the site’s previous use and as a pleasant decorative motif, a bronze statue of the dray horse has been put in place. He is called Drummer and stands for the generations of horses who would have transported beer from the brewery during its 170-year history.
The sculpture was first modelled in clay and then cast in bronze. The sculptor was Shirley Pace, an acknowledged portraitist of equine subjects, who also sculpted Jacob, the dray horse who stands on the re-developed site of the Courage Brewery near Tower Bridge in London. Drummer was installed in 2014 and Shirley Pace, at 81, was allegedly called out of retirement to sculpt him.
The day started with a hiccup but wasn’t too bad as a whole. Let us wait and see what tomorrow brings.